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Meditation 1038
Overturning the First Amendment

by: John Tyrrell

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According to a recent poll, approximately one third of Americans would support Christianity as the official religion for their state - or for the United states as a whole.

The two questions asked were:

Would you favor or oppose establishing Christianity as the official state religion in your state?

Would you favor or oppose a Constitutional amendment which would make Christianity the official religion of the United States?

And the brief summary of the results...

The new survey finds that 34 percent of adults would favor establishing Christianity as the official state religion in their own state, while 47 percent would oppose doing so. Thirty-two percent said that they would favor a constitutional amendment making Christianity the official religion of the United States, with 52 percent saying they were opposed. (Huffington Post)

At least more Americans oppose these ideas than support them. But I would suggest that of the third of Americans who support this proposal, approximately 100%* have not thought through the implications of their reply.

As far as I know, not one of the western countries which still have an official religion identifies the state religion as simply Christianity. They all identify with a specific denomination, be it Church of England, the national Lutheran church, Catholicism, the national Orthodox church or whatever. The national religion is a specific group within Christianity. Even those countries which extend official recognition to several religions do it on a denominational basis.

If you start looking at the differences, it is difficult to find common ground. Different Christian denominations have differing views on the issues of the day which currently divide Americans; different views on abortion, on birth control, on homosexual acts, on same sex marriage, on women's rights, on how to deal with poverty, on the teaching of science to children, among many other issues.

Theologically, there is less common ground than you'd think. They differ on views on the Trinity, on the permanent virginity of Mary, on the symbolism of communion, on top down or bottom up management. They differ on interpretation of scripture, unable to agree which which passages of the Bible should be taken literally and which metaphorically. They even differ on which version of the Bible is more authentic. And more importantly, they cannot agree on which of their fellows are Christians. Many are determined that Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are not Christians. Nor is Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist. For some, Catholics are not Christians, but followers of the Anti-Christ. I've even seen Episcopalians in the reject pile.

In the end, establishing Christianity as a state religion either has to be absolutely meaningless because of the differences, or it has to involve setting one denomination above all others.

Several of the original 13 colonies were founded by one Christian sect to escape persecution by another Christian sect which had official status. This very background is the reason for the First Amendment to the US Constitution. It protects the diversity of Christianity (along with protecting other religions and the non-religious.) Christians wanting to overturn that first amendment do so out of ignorance and at their own peril.


* a thoroughly unscientific guesstimate